I have decided to begin a new series of posts under the misnomer “What’s the Real Problem.” Why a misnomer? You’ll see…
Today’s topic is Cell Phones in School… and… what’s the problem.. with them in school.
But not really.
Here’s the scoop.
Kids use cell phones in school.
Oh, you knew that already? Good, then maybe you’ve had time to think about the ramifications of students being free to carry around a powered on (but in most cases silenced) calculator-dictionary-encyclopedia-video game console-TV-radio-in-one device throughout the course of the school day. I have thought about it extensively. Here’s my thoughts (some, specifically from the point of view of a teacher, which I was for some time):
First, let’s go with the obvious: it’s a distraction. Just think about the last time you were out with friends (…or saw other people out with friends, you loser ;). What do you always see? Someone, at least one person, is on a smartphone. They could be checking social media, taking a selfie, looking at emails, checking up on their sports, or just reading articles. They could also be playing a game, searching through YouTube, or simply browsing the web. You see kids doing this all the time. Sometimes in groups in which they purposely planned to meet so they could “see each other”. Sure they could be talking to one another and having a conversation, but instead they’re playing games or posting the dankest memes. It’s a distraction that I myself use when I don’t feel like being social, or when I don’t feel like I’m a part of the group I’m with. It’s a distraction and an escape. That escape can be OK… and a little mobile gaming while waiting in line to order food isn’t that big of a deal. As a matter of fact, most adults who get on their phone during any downtime aren’t doing anything particularity wrong. Nor are they using the phone to take the place of another, more social activity (like talking to a friend). Most of them wouldn’t be talking anyway. And when they do have something to say, the phone usually goes off until the conversation is done.
But that’s not even the issue with phones in school. And I’ll bet you think I’m going to accuse students of using them to cheat?
*loud raspberry noise*
I had to train students to use their school issued tablets to look something up when they were arguing with one another, or wondering how something worked, or couldn’t remember where a country was located on the globe. The same thing happened with students at a community center where I worked. They would just argue back and forth. And I would comment, “too bad we don’t have some way to look up this information. You know, if only I had a pair of pants that produced information and then I could just reach into my pocket and pull out that information. I’d know everything!”… Then they’d look at me like I’m stupid, but one of them would take the hint.
That’s right: the future rulers of our social security checks, the ones who grew up with technology at their fingertips didn’t think “oh ya! I’ve got Google in my pocket. Let’s ask her!”
Yes. Google is female.
So if being a distraction isn’t the big problem with cell phones in school, and the possibility of using them to cheat isn’t the biggest problem, then what’s the problem?
The problem is us.
Not “us” meaning “US” or to clarify “U.S.” or to say bluntly the “United States of America.”
“Us” meaning you and me and the teachers and the principals and the parents and the politicians and even the students. All of us. We are the problem.
There is this kid I know who draw pictures and posts them to Facebook. He does this throughout the school day. He also posts other stuff or shares posts from Facebook pages.
But again, this is during the school day. While he’s in school.
Now, you’d think there would be a third category here. We already have “distraction” and we have “cheating.” So this might be… “wasting time?”
Actually, this use of a cell phone is poor time management… or wasting time, and possibly a distraction. But it’s not cheating. At least not in his case.
OK, let’s look at it this way: If he is supposed to be paying attention to the teacher, but is instead danking those memes, then he is using his time poorly, while also being a disrespectful dolt. However, if he is playing on his cell phone while he should be doing homework, then he is just using his time poorly. If he has no lecture to listen to and no work to complete, then I guess he’s not doing anything wrong. Why would I say that?
If he didn’t have his phone, he’d still be doodling. The same things above apply to his doodles: if he doodles while teacher is teachering – disrespectful dolt. If he doodles instead of doing homework – wasting time. But if he has nothing to do, and the teacher just needs the students to chill until the bell rings, then he’s at least doing something with his time instead of causing a disruption, being loud and obnoxious, or blankly staring at the wall. At least he’s creating something.
Is that the same as getting to the next level in Pokemon Go? I don’t think so.
But what about reading an article on a news app? Or playing a puzzle game? Or sending a close friend a picture of you as a puppy, because that friend has been going through a hard time and hasn’t felt much like, well, feeling anymore?
Sure, posting a picture of a drawing to Facebook while you’re in school might make someone think, “why are you on your phone? You’re supposed to be paying attention in class!”
But the truth is there might not be much to pay attention to.
The reality is, since a lot of schools allow students to carry around their phones with them, the teacher needs to explicitly explain the appropriate and inappropriate times to be on the cell phone. The school needs to have specific rules for this stuff. The parents need to back up the school when they enforce these rules. AND the parents need to be a part of the whole process: telling the school what they think of phone use. Talking to their kids about their phone use. And also, working with the school, backing them up, and disciplining their kids at home, properly.
We also need to stop being such hypocrites!
Do you know what I began writing this post on? My phone. And do you know where I was? The ba- that’s not important.
If we as adults are going to use our phones to listen to music, watch videos, take pictures, look up information, navigate around town, find movie times, check emails, take business calls, chat with groups whether friends or colleagues, then maybe we need to allow students to do the same. Albeit, we need to examine our own habits to make sure we are using the technology appropriately and in a mentally and physically healthy manner. AND we need to then educate our children on those same habits. But why not just let the kids use their phones?
It would be like anything else. Let’s look at drinking. Ridiculous statistics about underage drinking aside, what do most people do when they turn 21? They go crazy bar hopping trying every drink known to the western world… and then a few from the east. Why? Because they can.
If we tell kids “no phones in school” then not only are we lying to them about how the real world works, but we are closing them off. Once the doors are opened they will get out those cell phones and never look back. If we don’t let them use their phones in a real world environment we’ll never have the chance to educate them about how and when to use them. Likewise, when it’s just not appropriate to have that phone out.
I can imagine a kid at a funeral, on his phone, playing some game… because he’s bored. Naively unaware at the emotional state of those around him. Wait, did I say I could imagine this? Oh, sorry. I meant to say I’ve seen this before.
And that’s not even the half of it.
What problem will I have next?
Who will be the butt of my jokes?
How many one sentence paragraphs can I get away with?
Find out next time on…
“What’s the Real Problem”!
Promotional consideration for “What’s the Real Problem” provided by:
P.S. I hate the idea of kids walking around school with their faces glued to their phones. It’s just stupid.
P.P.S. If I was a student allowed to have my phone, you bet I’d be on it all the time. Maybe not while the teacher it talking, but definitely instead of doing homework. I used to doodle all the time, too. ;D